Albert Pyun, 1982
Starring: Lee Horsley, Kathleen Beller, Richard Lynch, Richard Moll
Evil overlord Titus Cromwell resurrects the sorcerer Xusia in order to overthrow King Richard, ruler of Ehdan, one of the most peaceful and prosperous lands. Cromwell demolishes Richard’s armies and kills Richard and his family, except his young son Talon, who escapes with Richard’s tripled-bladed sword. Cromwell betrays Xusia, kills him and throws him off a cliff. Talon grows up to become a famous warrior and decides to return to Ehdan to fulfill the promise of revenge he made to his father. Xusia, still alive, also decides to get revenge on Cromwell. Prince Mikah and Princess Alana, children of Richard’s closest advisors and only remaining heirs to the throne, are cooking up their own rebellion with the aid of Cromwell’s advisor Machelli.
Unfortunately Machelli double crosses them and Cromwell arrests Mikah and tortures him. Alana is almost raped by Cromwell’s men, but Talon rescues her and promises to free her brother and some other captured rebels for one night with her. Alana is soon captured and Cromwell plans to force her to marry him. At their wedding he will kill the visiting kings of other neighboring lands. Talon, meanwhile, has freed Mikah and the rebels, but gets captured and crucified at Alana and Cromwell’s wedding. Can Talon free himself, free Alana and defeat Cromwell?
I really love The Sword and the Sorcerer. I never saw it as a kid, so I’m not holding onto any fond memories, it’s just a fun, stand-out early entry in the sword and sorcery genre. It works despite a lot of bad elements - a disastrous script with lots of plot holes, poor performances, cheap sets and crappy effects - and, somewhat surprisingly, was the most successful independent film of 1982 and his since become a minor cult classic.
Albert Pyun is known for his trash films, namely Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Cyborg (1989) and the sci-fi series Nemesis. Here he delivers an entertaining, faced-past movie with some truly terrible elements, but it’s bolstered by charm, comedy, nudity and some utter ridiculousness. Lee Horseley is actually quite good as Talon and though he spends the film either rescuing people or being rescued himself, he’s wittier and more of a scoundrel than most brainless sword and sorcery heroes. Many of his mercenaries have similar, swashbuckling personalities and are only interested in adventure and their warrior’s code. Unlike many other, more barbarian-themed ‘80s fantasy films, this has elements of early Errol Flynn pirate films and of Indiana Jones, which the score steals from unmercilessly.
One of the film’s major weaknesses is the lack of a strong central villain. Night Court’s Richard Moll looks great as the demonic sorcerer, but he is unfortunately not in a lot of scenes in his true form. His introduction scene where the Grace Jones look-alike witch licks slime off his fingers is effectively repulsive. Titus Cromwell, played by TV actor Richard Lynch (the original Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: TNG, Highlander) chews scenery with gusto, but is no match for Talon.
The brother and sister “heirs” to the throne, Alana (Kathleen Beller) and Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale) are the children of the king’s advisor, so they could theoretically be prince and princess, but it is frustrating that no one ever mentions that Talon is the rightful heir and that his sister survived, but was kidnapped by Cromwell. She is likely Cromwell’s whore, Elizabeth, who helps to free Mikah and eventually has her tongue cut out and her throat slit for her troubles. Frustratingly, Talon doesn’t tell anyone that he’s the heir to the throne and doesn’t look for his missing sister, he simply beds the princess, lets some lame pretender take the crown and then rides off into the sunset for more adventure.
The film benefits from its more adult tone and is full of naked women, boasts some gory effects like a head being chopped in half, and nearly half the cast gets murdered or at least tortured. There are some incredible chase sequences, one of which is through the king’s brothel, another take place in a tunnel full of psychopathic rats. The final 20-30 minutes delivers a a zany amount of sword fighting and adventure, including some great shots of the Talon’s three-bladed sword that fires the extra two blades.
I can only recommend this to fans of the genre, as it is insanely cheesy and has very low production values, but if you love sword and sorcery films, it’s a ton of fun. The Sword and the Sorcerer is available on DVD from Anchor Bay, though the only extras are two trailers and a TV spot. Apparently the Australian disc has a commentary from Pyun, which I wouldn’t mind listening to. Pyun finally made a sequel, Tales of an Ancient Empire (2010), starring Hercules’s Kevin Sorbo and Lee Horseley. I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve heard it just doesn’t have the same charm as The Sword and the Sorcerer.